With sales of BMW X-badged models surpassing 5.5 million vehicles since 1999, and demand showing no sign of letting up, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the German company is keen to plug any gaps in its SUV range. Up until now, the line-up has had two distinct sides, with the X1, X3 and X5 adopting the traditional SUV shape and the X4 and X6 embodying a more design-led look, sacrificing some practicality in the process. So where should that leave the new BMW X2?

From early on in the project, it was clear that mimicking the coupe-like silhouette bestowed upon the even-numbered X models just wasn’t going to work in something as small as the X2. This decision led the design team, under the supervision of Karim Habib (prior to his departure to Infiniti), to create the Concept X2. From concept to production car, very little has changed.

 

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The first big talking point is that this is the first time that the company’s signature kidney grille design is wider at the base than the top. This move was to emphasise the car’s unique looks, and similar grille variations are set to become a theme of future BMW models. The other eye-catching design element is the addition of the BMW roundel on the car’s thick C-pillars. An obvious nod to past icons like the 3.0 CSL, it’s interesting to see this practice resurrected
on an SUV.

Of the three specification grades the X2 will come in, it is the M Sport X driven here that has the most distinctive appearance. The most noticeable difference is the use of contrasting grey panels around the lower front grille, wheel arches, side skirts and at the rear diffuser. The M Sport models also feature an extension to the rear spoiler. One further design element that stands out is the tailgate, which sits almost flush with the rear of the car. This was made  possible by adding a double skin of plastic moulding over the metal boot lid and integrating the handle into the BMW emblem on the back. Depending on the choice of engine, the X2 features dual or single exhaust tips in the rear bumper. Measuring 90mm in diameter, they are larger than those that first featured on the BMW X6.

 

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Inside, there is still the raised seating position you would expect of a crossover, and the interior has a familiar look similar to that of the BMW X1, with some minor changes. In the range-topping M Sport X model we drove, for example, the quality of the materials is tangibly improved. Use of Micro Hexagon fabric with Alcantara Anthracite in combination with yellow contrast stitching looks far better than it may sound on the page. Up to five different leathers and trim inserts, consisting of gloss black, aluminium and matt oak grain finishes, will be available.

On the practical side, the X2 features enough storage areas throughout the cabin, with the most generously sized bins found in the doors. Rear passenger headroom isn’t bad, though not class-leading, and it can get cramped with three people in the back. The boot, at 470 litres, is deep, but its aperture isn’t the widest.

 

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The crisp and sharp look to the instrument display is thanks to BMW’s black panel technology and comes in all X2s. Depending on specification grade, the free-standing infotainment display is either a 6.5- or 8.8-inch touchscreen. The larger is the same as you would find in the new BMW X3 or current 5 Series, but doesn’t feature Gesture Control in the X2.

 

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BMW does still fit the familiar iDrive rotary controller to the X2, and the latest operating system is more intuitive to navigate through. For some tasks, using the touchscreen is easier and faster, though, so it’s nice to have a choice of interfaces. The optional head-up display is large and easy to read while driving, even in bright daylight. 

To give the X2 the kind of driving experience to complement its sporty image, BMW’s chassis and suspension engineers came together to develop a new setup to provide it with a sharper feel than the X1. The M Sport and M Sport X suspension reduces ride height by 10mm, for example, the same as the optional adaptive damper setup.

 

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With the passive suspension, the bushing now features a ring of plastic inside, making it stiffer. This arrangement allows for the anti-roll bars to use a softer setting at the beginning of the movement, resulting in better absorption rates without impacting on body control, in theory. How that translates onto the road is that the car soaks up bumps very well, but isolates this action better from the cabin than in the X1. There is less body roll in faster bends, too, yet the X2 doesn’t feel overly stiff or uncomfortable. Indeed, the ride comfort is just on the firm side and similar to what you would ex-perience in a 3 Series sedan.

In urban settings, the X2 is easy to weave through traffic with a quick response to the steering inputs. The eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission performs well in stop-start traffic, too. It does tend to race up through the gears in its default mode in a bid to conserve fuel, but responds quickly to throttle inputs to drop down to the right cog as required. The 2.0-litre petrol sDrive20i model uses a different seven-speed dual-clutch setup for its automatic transmission than the item we tried with the sole test car, the xDrive20d. BMW’s Traffic Jam Assistant is one option worth con-sidering if you spend a lot of time in slow-moving traffic. It works up to 60kph, keeping you in your lane and taking care of the stop-start driving, taking a lot of the hassle out of the rush-hour commute.

On more open stretches, the X2 copes well at higher speeds, remaining stable, with less road and wind noise than many of its rivals. But to properly experience the agility of the X2 you need to find some twisty roads. It can be easy to write off such cars as lacking in fun, but this is one BMW that is sure to surprise many who drive it. The xDrive four-wheel drive transmission gives the car added traction in corners, too.

 

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There is a linear sensation to the steering and it is one of the better setups in recent BMW models. You can choose to add a more weighted feel by selecting the Sport mode, but is fine when left alone.

On the surface, the X2 is sure to prove popular with consumers, but unlike some crossover-themed models on the market, beauty is more than skin deep with this BMW.